I am 36 years old and work in the visual arts field as a photo editor and educator.
WHAT WAS THE MAJOR TURNING POINT IN YOUR RECOVERY FROM DEPRESSION?
I would say that ever since college, I have felt like I’ve had low lying levels of depression hover over me constantly. No matter what seeming changes I made, it kept following me like a cloud that I befriended because it wouldn’t leave me alone.
The turning point came only a few years ago when I realized what a strong grip it had on my life. I felt annoyed at anything that would happen on a daily basis, and a lack of motivation to do anything, even the things I was supposedly happy about doing. This included the many plans I had to cancel because I wasn’t feeling positive. I did the absolute minimum in life just to get by and that was my life.
There are days that still creep up, but I am doing better now more than ever. It was killing my potential that I wanted everyone to see!
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED?
- The biggest change included being conscious about how different stimulus would affect my mood. With food, after each meal I would write how it made me feel, to get to the bottom of making a list of foods that always made me feel good. That lead me toward the path of eating more organic greens (3x a day) and prebiotic foods like potato starch to heal my stomach. Look it up, it’s really fascinating!
- The mind and gut connection is very real and healing foods contributed to my recovery. I also found out things like commercial grains made me feel awful and switched to organic, among many other little things. Pay attention to how you feel after what you consume, it leads to a lot of clues!
- Fatty acid supplementation played a huge role in my mental health. When I first tried fish oil (fats known at EPA and DHA, and I took around 2 grams a day in total), I found my mental well being improved dramatically and how I was reacting to external stimuli that usually would make me feel down. Sadly in a couple of months I seemed to have built an allergy to fish! But when I stopped, my mental health went into decline. So I switched to vegan sources and it worked safely.
- (Word to anyone who is interested in trying, vegan sources do not contain the previously mentioned EPA and DHA, but rather a precursor known as ALA that it then has to convert to. Unfortunately the conversion rates to EPA and DHA are low and you will need 5 to 10x the amount of ALA. I went with ground chia seeds and flaxseed oil as my alternatives and took 6 tablespoons of ground chia seeds a day (you need to grind them) and 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day. It has reproduced the same effects. Each person is different but this is hopefully a good guide. I would start low to see how you respond and then build up over a week. And make sure to have it with a fatty meal so it absorbs properly. Sorry for the little science lesson, but just figuring this out changed everything for me!)
Keep it Moving
- We are beings that need to continually keep moving and it felt like such a contradiction because I was already unmotivated to do anything. But I learned that even three sets of jumping jacks a day was enough to feel something in my mind. I started with this little commitment every day because it was easy to show up for myself, and then increased it to being active longer each session once I got into the habit of it. Eventually putting in some weights and doing it helped my body to seemingly release a lot of brain happy chemicals, so I became reliant on it as a part of my journey.
- When going on this journey to recovery and health, it’s important to remember that you will slip up, and you must give yourself the ability to do that without guilt. Patience with yourself will preserve your energy to recovery.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER GUYS FIGHTING DEPRESSION?
I always felt it was harder to talk to people about this, but it really helps to feel like you’re not alone. Look into joining a local support group or talk to a friend about it. Opening up is hard, but we need community and support. Also, know this isn’t forever, we feel like this will be how we’ll be but remember we change physiologically into new people. We weren’t who we were when we were kids or teenagers, and we will be someone different in the future.
Focus on the future and keep focusing on trying different options, till you find what works for you. I ended up finding out depression wasn’t happening to me because of the situation I was in, but the mental illness that put my mind in a state that made me react extremely negatively to every stimulus. It’s a vicious cycle, but it can be broken and you can take control.
– Pratik Naik, Houston, Texas, USA